Of Murders and Beaus
Author: M.C. Beaton
A night of amateur dramatics with Mrs. Bloxby leads Agatha straight into her next murder investigation. Supposedly beloved town baker (and ogre in the play) goes off screen in a puff of smoke, only to be found later with a spike driven through his body. Accident? Doubtful.
The play’s producer is tired of the suspicion coming his way, and hires Agatha to get the heat off him (and his amateur dramatics). But it seems like the world of play acting is rife with rivalries, petty jealousies, long held animosities, and lots of untoward relationships. If only Agatha can concentrate on the killer and not her raging hormones. But one of the suspects is rather dishy . . . and there is also that gentlemen farmer, as well as an old friend of James Lacey, who might just do as husband number 3 or at least a temporary obsession!
Agatha has literary had over a baker’s dozen murders happen in her cozy village and its extended environs, and yet she hasn’t learned much about hiding evidence from police, lying, or outright accusing dangerous people in isolated locations. If you thought The Blood of an Englishman was going to be any different, then you have obviously missed the previous 25 misadventures with our hormonal, chain smoking, foul mouthed, ill-tempered sleuth. Agatha remains Agatha, warts and all.
If you’re still hanging around this late in the series, then I don’t have to explain the draw to you. I’m not sure myself what it is, although it is certainly lessening. These went from a good cozy read to a forgettable guilty pleasure with the undertone of a little bit of cozy. It’s all a bit haphazard now, from the killings to the jumping bean of a plot, and it’s not going to get any better. Die-hard fans only need apply.
Here, the murder occurs in a whirlwind in the first chapter, just as we are struggling to figure out where we are and who all these people are. Several chapters in and its even muddier as all these names and figures are hurled at us. It’s a lackluster beginning. We didn’t have time to get into the setting, to care, and much less to be horrified. The giant cast of grumpy actors doesn’t help, nor does Agatha’s intermittent interest that is distracted by the first site of an eligible man smiling.
Soon, the murder is forgotten. Not solved, just sidetracked. The killer isn’t really interested in Agatha, and the second murder is more a bow to how the series works; it’s always a serial murderer at this point, trying to clean up a messy trail of witnesses and blackmailers. Instead, we’re watching Agatha’s love life. Now, when I first started this series myself, a lonely girl in college, I resonated somewhat with Agatha’s desperation and loneliness. But it’s been two marriages later, endless disastrous flings, and lots of people have gotten killed because Agatha cannot pay attention. I’m no longer sympathetic. It’s simply too immature. Loneliness I get; but this? Come on Agatha. Talk about being your own worst enemy.
As the relationships, which really don’t have much to do with the mystery, come and go, the story desperately clamors like a many limbed octopus having a seizure during a typhoon. It’s not pretty. There is still something cozyish (maybe it’s just the mere mention of the Cotswolds), but it is all very old hat. Toni is brilliant but too pretty for Agatha. Charles is a flake. James Lacey is traveling. Mrs. Bloxby is wise and caring. Simon is crushing on Toni. The villagers are all suspicious and angry. Agatha is brusque and angry. Roy Silver will eventually visit and nearly get killed. Cut and paste. Cut and paste.
Finally, we get back to the mystery at the end with another murder. It’s honestly difficult by this point to remember who all is dead, how, and why. We get a killer (several actually), but it’s never very clear who they murdered and why. But the police are happy and Agatha is happy – so it’s time for an extended epilogue that has nothing to do with what just happened and is more interested in Agatha’s jealousy and a set-up for the next book. Sigh. Again, good for die-hard fans who just want their Agatha fix and honestly, nothing out of the normal considering the way the last several books have been. How do I even rate this anymore?
– Frances Carden
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